Yesterday morning the sports world was rocked by the tragic death of Marlins All-Star pitcher Jose Fernandez, who was killed in a boating accident at the age of 24.
Fernandez’s death was particularly excruciating not just because he was one of the fastsest rising stars in the game with a birght future ahead of him, but he was an inspiration of hope for so many off the field – that the American Dream could be accomplished against all odds. He was a symbol for all Cuban Americans, escaping oppression after four failed defection attempts, risking his life to save his mother, and rising from rags to riches at a pace rarely seen.
Now, all we are left with is the hypothetical, the “what could have beens” for a talented, joyous young man that was taken from us far too soon.
It overshadowed an afternoon that was expected to be a day of celebration for one of the greatest centerpieces in all of baseball, as famed Dodgers’ broadcaster Vin Scully called his final game at Dodger Stadium in a career that has spanned over 67 years. Scully will call his final game next Sunday when Los Angeles faces the San Francisco Giants.
And the hits didn’t stop. Less than 24 hours after the sporting world learned of Fernandez’s passing, news broke that golf legend Arnold Palmer, the man who changed the game as we know it, died from natural causes at the age of 87.
Palmer had been dealing with heart issues for approximately the past year, but it was another blow within a day that had already seen enough tears shed. Two greats of their own respective generations – gone from this world. And a third leaving the Dodger Stadium press box, his home away from home, for the final time in his career that we may never see matched.
September 25th, 2016 was a day of loss in more than one way. And it serves as a perfect mircosom for a year that has been a gut punch to the sporting world in such capacity.
We could begin with the retirments of greats – Peyton Manning, Kobe Bryant, Charles Woodson, Tim Duncan, Pavel Datsyuk, the list goes on and on.
But retirements are part of sports. You see that player blow away the competition, blow away the crowd with their talent, and eventually they have to move on to the next stage in their life.
Death is an entirely different ballgame.
From the “Greatest of All Time” and “Mr. Hockey,” from the coach who knew who the Bears were to an athlete that is the namesake to one of the best drinks ever invented, 2016 has robbed sports fans of far too much to handle. Here is a list of some notable names we have lost since New Year’s day:
- Boxing Lengend Muhammad Ali – 74, natural causes
- Deroit Red Wings great Gordie Howe – 88, natural causes
- Former NFL coach Dennis Green – 67, natural causes
- Former Nebraksa running back Lawrence Phillips – 40, suicide
- Nebraska punter Sam Foltz – 22, car crash
- Former Michigan State punter Mike Sadler – 24, car crash (same incident as Foltz)
- Former NBA star Nate Thurmond – 74, leukemia
- Former New Orleans Saints DE Will Smith – 34, road rage shooting
- Golf Legend Arnold Palmer – 87, natural causes
- Marlins All-Star pitcher Jose Fernandez – 24, boating accident
- Tennessee Basketball coaching legend Pat Summit – 64, onset dementia
- Heavyweight fighter Kevin “Kimbo Slice” Ferguson – 42, heart failure
- Ravens DB Tray Walker – 23, motorcycle crash
Of course, the theme of death extends beyond sports this year, losing household names including Prince, David Bowie, Gene Wilder, Alan Rickman and Harper Lee. It’s simply too much to handle for us all.
Brighter days will be ahead. Happier times will come. But damn, what a year.
***Feautred image: Associated Press***